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Former Macon State worker ‘considering options’ after ruling

A former Macon State College employee is considering her options for appeal in the wake of a Fulton County judge granting a motion for summary judgment in her whistleblower lawsuit against the Georgia Board of Regents.

Elizabeth Denise Caldon, who is Macon State President David Bell’s former administrative assistant, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit under the Georgia Whistleblower Act in March 2009.

Caldon has maintained she was given the option to resign or be fired in September 2008 after a series of events in which she refused to comply with orders to record false information in official records about Bell’s attendance and leave.

A Fulton County Superior Court judge granted a motion for summary judgment Aug. 16 that was filed by the Board of Regents, according to court records.

Summary judgment is granted when no issues of fact that can be decided by a jury remain in a case, and a judge can make a decision based on the law, said Russ Willard, spokesman for the Georgia Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General’s Office represents the Board of Regents in legal matters. Caldon’s supervisors found her to be insubordinate on Sept. 24, 2008, after she “scolded” Bell for not taking a phone call from his adult son, according to the motion for summary judgment filed by the Board of Regents.

Caldon sent an apology e-mail to college Vice President John Cole, who witnessed the exchange of words. That afternoon Bell and Cole offered Caldon the option of resigning or being terminated, according to the motion.

Bell had received complaints from several college administrators about Caldon prior to the Sept. 24, 2008, incident, including allegations that Caldon overstepped her authority as an administrative assistant, according to court records.

The Board of Regents later upheld the decision to terminate Caldon.

Caldon has alleged Bell didn’t file accurate reports of his annual and sick leave and objected to Bell’s lack of attendance at functions that required payment for registration. She also complained to college administrators about “Bell’s inability to do his job” because of what she observed to be “Bell’s declining mental status,” according to court records.

Lawyers for the Board of Regents argued no evidence exists that the reasons given by Macon State College staff for Caldon’s departure are false or that they acted in retaliation for activity protected by the Georgia Whistleblower Act.

None of plaintiff’s complaints disclosed the violation of a “law, rule, or regulation,” according to a legal brief written by lawyers for the Board of Regents. “(Caldon) can point to nothing to suggest that President Bell acted in retaliation.”

The Office of the State Inspector General conducted an investigation into Caldon’s allegations of Bell’s wrongdoing but didn’t find a factual basis for her claims, according to court records.

Christopher Moorman, Caldon’s lawyer, argued in a legal brief that Caldon’s allegations are protected as whistleblowing.

Whether ending Caldon’s employment was in response to her whistleblowing or due to “insubordination” should be left to a jury to decide, he wrote.

Moorman said Caldon has 30 days from the ruling to file notice of an appeal.

Caldon worked for Macon State for about 15 years, 10 as Bell’s assistant.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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